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Seven Days

Thursday, March 22
Figures just released on the 2000 U.S. Census tell us Knoxville grew in population by 2.4 percent. People annexed by the city in that period tell us their taxes have risen by 240 percent, their temperatures by 2.4 degrees and their blood pressures by 24 points.

Friday, March 23
U.S. Forest Service researchers announce that, in grappling with the dogwood fungus scourge, they've turned up a tree they couldn't kill. Now, if they'll just go to work on developing a tree they can't cut down...
The "ill wind blows someone a sick windfall" award for the week goes to a Knoxville-based tech firm whose bar-coded ear tags and other gimmicks for tracking livestock experience a sharp rise in demand from the hoof and mouth outbreak.

Monday, March 26
The startling revelation that oncoming motorists who stop for a funeral procession are violating state law sends Tennesseans diving into the lawbooks to see if there might also be some quirky statute prohibiting the throwing of beer cans into the back of a pickup.
Frito-Lay announces construction of a huge distribution center for its snack products in Knoxville. Makes sense—you go where the market is.
The federal court trial of TVA, accused by employees of violating labor law by requiring overtime work without overtime pay collapsed in an argument over what constitutes work and whether TVA ever required any from anybody.

Tuesday, March 27
Knox County Commissioner Larry Stephens and developer Earl Worsham reveal plans for a huge development on the abandoned site for the formerly planned justice center complex downtown. The new proposal includes a museum, a planetarium and a noo vrblnmesmnnnng.... nuffnikfreeble... mrk.

Knoxville Found

(Click photo for larger image)

What is this? Every week in "Knoxville Found," we'll print the photo of a local curiosity. If you're the first person to correctly identify this oddity, you'll win a special prize plucked from the desk of the editor (keep in mind that the editor hasn't cleaned his desk in five years). E-mail your guesses, or send 'em to "Knoxville Found" c/o Metro Pulse, 505 Market St., Suite 300, Knoxville, TN 37902.

Last Week's Photo:
This gargoylish lion's head glares down from the elaborate metal top of the five-story brick edifice once known as Sprankle Flats, originally an Edwardian apartment building at Union Ave. and Walnut. On its ground floor today are several thriving businesses, including Pete's Coffee Shop; the upper floors are vacant and boarded up. The building has been in the news lately because its owner, Home Federal, has announced it will vacate the building, probably to demolish it. For more on the building's surprising history, see the Secret History column in this issue. Prize for first right answer goes to architectural twosome Buzz Goss and Cherie Piercy-Goss (who just happen to live down the block). "Perhaps the lions will come to life, a la Ghostbusters, when Home Federal's wrecking crew comes calling," they write wistfully. Since we already gave Buzz a prize a few months ago, this week's award—a slightly battered copy of Meet Me At the Fair!, a lovely history of the Tennessee Valley Agricultural and Industrial Fair—is just for Cherie. Of course, she can share it if she feels like it...

Correction: A couple of readers noted that we misidentified last week's Knoxville Found as part of McKee Hall at Knoxville College; it's actually part of Elnathan Hall, which is nearby. Thanks to architect Daniel Scott Cooter of Sparkman and Associates for setting us straight. (The first time we ran the photo, no one even ventured a guess.)

Meet Your City
A calendar of upcoming public meetings you should attend


McConnell, Jones, Lanier & Murphy will release the results of of its management and performance review of the Knox County school system in a series of public presentations.
9 a.m.: Presentation of major findings and recommendations of the review.
10:30 a.m.: Report to the school board.
1:30 p.m.: Report to Knox County Commission.
7 p.m.: Public briefing and open forum.
A separate presentation to Knox County school principals will be held at West High School at 4:30 p.m. It is also open to the public.

Work session.

City Council's agenda unavailable at press time.

Regular monthly meeting.


A Better Bearden?

Community plan seeks to balance business, residents

Mixed use—housing, offices and shopping all within walking distance. It's a term that crops up frequently in the endless round of proposals and counter-proposals for downtown and Market Square. But there's another part of town where the mixed-use concept has recently surfaced—Bearden in West Knoxville. "We think," says Robyn Askew, vice president of the real estate development firm Holrob Investment, "that the Homberg and Bearden area is a natural for mixed use—a place for people to live, work and recreate."

Helping Bearden achieve that is the focus of "Bearden Village Opportunities Plan," recently completed by the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Drawing from a year's worth of community input and numerous stakeholder meetings, the plan contains a variety of recommendations, from park and greenway expansions to traffic and pedestrian improvements. The aim is to connect Bearden's numerous parts—stable residential areas such as Forest Heights and Westwood and the thriving commercial strip along Kingston Pike between Northshore and Western Plaza—into a more walkable, user-friendly whole.

"Bearden is very fortunate because we've got all the components," says Finbarr Saunders, president of the Westwood Homeowners Association. But, according to Saunders, "what we don't have, and what this plan will encourage, are more pedestrian friendly ways."

The plan calls for far more than crosswalks and sidewalks, though. Central to the "village" is the establishment of urban design guidelines for Bearden's various commercial districts. According to MPC's Shannon Toliver, design guidelines are crucial if the plan is to have teeth. In theory, says Toliver, "developers can look at the plan and say 'yeah, I want to develop like that,' but that's not as realistic as if they had to."

Other than laying down a few basic principles—mixed uses, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and parking in the rear—the plan offers few details as to what the design guidelines might be. That will require some sort of rezoning—either the Town Center mixed-use zone MPC created earlier this month or a commercial overlay zone. Toliver outlines the process: "If the property owners get together and say we don't want to be rezoned but we want a certain measure of control, then an overlay district would be the way to go. It would be up to MPC to develop that. We don't currently have a commercial overlay zone."

Getting business owners to buy in to the idea is the chief hurdle. However, the support of one of the area's largest property owners and managers should give the concept a tremendous boost. Holrob's Askew says that her firm supports the plan conceptually but sees it as a work in progress: "It's going to take land owners and the city working together, but when you get to the details, there's got to be a lot of flexibility on both sides."

Saunders is grateful for Holrob's support. "Turn on the TV, look in the magazines," he says. "What do you see in the advertisements? People walking down these nice village streets."

Architect Rick Mixon, whose office is on Forest Park Boulevard, attended many of MPC's workshops and says that "several of the businesses were interested in establishing a measure of control, particularly in light of the Home Depot situation." Saunders agrees last year's aborted attempt by Home Depot to locate off Northshore Drive helped rally business support for the plan. "It kind of scared some of them together," he says. "The businesses were very supportive of the residential areas in fighting it."

In the Home Depot fight, according to Saunders, "what was objectionable was the magnitude. We value the personal service, personal connections. Merchants like Mayo [Garden Center] and Parker Brothers are a real part of the community."

And coming up with design guidelines while ensuring that small businesses like Mayo or Parker Brothers can afford to remain in the community is a concern expressed by many involved—residents and merchants alike. "From an economic point of view," says Askew, "you can design the Taj Mahal. But if people can't afford to rent it, that's a problem."

—Matt Edens

All Right Now

Danny Mayfield went his way

On the last day of his life, Danny Mayfield's family gathered around his bed and urged him to breathe. A tumor in one lung and pneumonia in the other were making this most basic life function increasingly difficult, and each breath grew more ragged than the last. Finally, when he just couldn't do it any more, he pulled down the mask and said a single, final word to his wife, Melissa:


Mayfield, an exuberant 32-year-old father of two, had been ill with bone cancer (a disease he had first conquered when he was 17 years old) for the past 15 months. He was elected four years ago to Knoxville's 6th District City Council seat in what he labeled a "grand-slam, home-run, upset victory." He was the co-founder of Tribe One, a street ministry that works to turn around the lives of inner-city street kids.

Two days after his death, his Council colleague Carlene Malone was asked to give a short eulogy. She sat down at her computer and thought about her memories. There was his first day in office, when he shocked the mostly-white crowd at the swearing-in ceremony by showing up in a flowing African robe. She thought about his calm acceptance of the sometimes less-than-warm welcome he received from other Council members, of his odd combination of audacity and serenity, of his unshakable faith in the face of death.

She finished with two pages and a garbage bag full of used Kleenex. Here is some of what she wrote:

"Danny brought wonderful gifts to our City and to our City Council...

"Our Generation X Council member, Danny began his Council career by introducing additions to the usual dress code of government officials. His wardrobe was immediately noticed.

"It symbolized change, different ideas, different expectations, different ways of thinking, a different approach and a different future for our city

"Danny brought a laptop computer to Council meetings. Again it was noticed. It reminded us all of the importance of the information age and the power of information in bringing about change. And it told us that there was no going back.

"Danny brought us the gift of youth. Youth is filled with hope and energy, enthusiasm and idealism, and with passion. He brought all of this to his Council work and just like his wardrobe and his laptop, his idealism was noticed. But the exuberance of youth was directed by Danny. Life had already tested him.

"Danny brought us many wonderful gifts. He was our brief glimpse of the future. And it is very beautiful."

Donald McCoy, 23, spoke at Mayfield's memorial service, too. He was about 14 when he started attending meetings of Tribe One, which had been founded a few months before by Mayfield and his partner Chris Woodhull. He'd already seen and done things that are the stuff of parents' nightmares.

"We had just come in from playing basketball, and we were talking about guns, and why do we carry guns. I always had an answer. I said that if I didn't have a gun on me the night before, I probably would have been dead if I hadn't shot back," McCoy said.

What happened next was totally uncharacteristic of the normally upbeat, optimistic Mayfield:

"Right then, he started crying in the middle of the meeting," McCoy said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. Around this time a lot of young dudes were dying and stuff. Our first reaction? We laughed. We were cracking up. Not right in his face, but we said 'What's wrong, dude?' And he said he was crying for us. He just wanted us to see, to get the message. He told us a lot of stories about what he went through in his life."

"He looked straight at me and said I was who he was crying for," said McCoy, who is married, has two children, owns his own home, works full time and is on the Tribe One staff as well. "I knew exactly what he meant. He was crying for me, but he was really crying for us all. Today, I get that feeling when I talk to people who don't see what I see—you want to reach inside of them and turn a knob so they'll get it.

"It took a long time. I went to jail a whole bunch, three, four times—every time for a felony charge. Came a time when I cut my hair, took some of my gold teeth out and walked up and down Kingston Pike, trying to get a job. But nobody'd hire me. One day I felt like giving up on life; my mamma called Danny, and Danny brought Chris. They took me to this little cafe out on Kingston Pike, and we did a little needs assessment. They tried to show me what I needed. They showed me it was just more than me. When I got to my lowest point, Tribe One was there.

"Now, every time he'd see me, Danny'd be smiling, saying 'I told you so'...He said he believed in me and that made me feel real good. When Danny first had cancer, I really didn't think much of it. I knew he was a person who believed strongly in God, and I thought, 'dang, man, he's gonna be all right'... I guess Danny's faith rubbed off on me...It was just like a chain reaction. I was at a Tribe One meeting when he died. When I came back, I heard. It was shocking to me. I didn't believe it.

"They started Tribe One when he was 22. I'm 23 now. I never knew he was as young as he was when he was talking to me. Every time I go to a Tribe One meeting, I try to focus on putting out the message I picked up. I can't force change on them, just like he couldn't on me. I look at that and realize that's a big mistake a lot of people make—trying to force change.

"That's the most important thing he taught me. Danny was a living example. He was a person that if you wanted to change, you could model your life after him. He taught me that because of my race, my age, I don't have to act a certain way or be a certain way. Danny wrote his own script, and he showed me that I don't have to be anything but who I am.

"I've known a lot of people that died, but I feel different about Danny from anybody else dying. We see in a vision that when we die, we float up to heaven. Well, I believe you can make this hell, or you can make this heaven, and I believe that Danny made this heaven. I cry, and will cry again. But I feel a difference with this one. Long as I keep checking myself and walking the way I walk, Danny wouldn't want me to let this get in my way. Every day I go to work, every day I live Tribe one. And that's a part of Danny.

"As far as Danny? I know he's all right. I truly know that."

—Betty Bean

March 29, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 13
© 2001 Metro Pulse